The research in my laboratory involves the use of innovative approaches to understand the basics of bacterial pathogenesis and evolution on a genome-wide scale. Definitely, we advocate the idea of “useful genomics” where genome-wide protocols are used to better understand the disease process or to discover novel vaccine and drug targets.
Currently, we are exploiting the genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of human tuberculosis, to better understand the critical stages of persistent tuberculosis. In particular, we employ the array differential gene expression (ADGE) profiling to unravel the transcriptional machinery that underlies mycobacterial virulence and the nature of host-pathogen interactions. We also use gene-targeted mutational analysis alongside cellular, biochemical and molecular techniques to determine the role of a novel genomic island expressed only during infection (iVEGI) in mycobacterial survival.
Other members of the laboratory investigate the pathogenesis and evolution of M. avium ss. paratuberculosis (M. ap), the causative agent of Johne’s disease in cattle. In particular, we address questions related to the very early stages (few hours) of intestinal invasion by M. ap bacilli as well as virulence factors associated with chronic infection. With the availability of the genome sequences of members of M. avium complex, we are currently using comparative genomic hybridization, optical mapping and statistical modeling to reconstruct the evolutionary history of M. avium complex. We are also evaluating the impact of the genome synteny on gene expression and bacterial pathogenesis.